A Strangler Fig Tree, Zululand, South Africa : Stock Photo
A Strangler Fig Tree, Zululand, South Africa : Stock Photo

A Strangler Fig Tree, Zululand, South Africa

Strangler figs are tall canopy trees which can grow to 148 feet in height. The manner in which they reach the canopy is a strange story. The forest floor of a rainforest is a difficult place for seedlings to grow. There is little light and a lot of competition for water and nutrients. Strangler figs have made an adaptation to avoid these difficulties. The strangler fig has an aggressive growth habit that insures its survival in the rainforest. The seedlings grows slowly at first, getting their nutrients from the sun, rain and leaf litter that has collected on the host. The stranglers send out many thin roots that snake down the trunk of the host tree or dangle as aerial roots from its branches. When the roots reach the ground they dig in and put on a growth spurt, competing with the host tree for water and nutrients. They also send out a network of roots that encircle the host tree and fuse together. As the roots grow thicker they squeeze the trunk of its host and cut off its flow of nutrients.


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